SBD/August 6, 2012/Franchises

Browns' Sale To Jimmy Haslam Could Be Finalized Earlier Than October Estimate

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Haslam could own the Browns in as little as two weeks
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he hopes the Browns' sale to Jimmy Haslam III will be finalized in "a matter of weeks," according to Ryan Lewis of the AKRON BEACON JOURNAL. Goodell said, "We've been working on it. That part of the process is important and we take great steps to ensure that it obviously meets all of the requirements of the NFL that we have the right type of structure in place with respect to financing. Goodell said the sale likely will take "a little longer than two weeks," but added it will be "no longer than October unless there’s some unusual delay.” Lewis reported Haslam’s purchase will become official "once the NFL’s finance committee recommends it and 75 percent of the league’s owners vote for approval." The owners are not scheduled to meet "until Oct. 16-17 in Chicago, though NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello said it’s possible a special meeting could be called to hold a vote sooner." Aiello indicated that teams received a memo "notifying them to stay tuned for a possible earlier vote." Lewis noted Goodell has not "targeted the start of the regular season as a hopeful sale date," but thinks the "strong management constructed under Randy Lerner’s ownership will weather any potential issues, should the deal drag deep into the first few weeks of the season" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/5). In Cleveland, Mary Kay Cabot noted it took owners "only about two weeks to approve" the sale of the Jaguars last year from Wayne Weaver to Shahid Khan (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/4). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Daniel Kaplan reports Haslam "was directed to the Browns by the league, which guided him through the process, the typical job of a mergers and acquisitions expert." The NFL "similarly aided" Khan on his purchase of the Jaguars (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/6 issue).

WINNING THE PRESS CONFERENCE: Haslam held his introductory press conference Friday, and in Cleveland, Bud Shaw wrote Haslam "hit all the right notes." Haslam "thinks it's important to attend the Browns' practice at the stadium Wednesday and shake some hands." He also is thinking about "watching the first exhibition game from the seats, instead of a loge." Shaw: "I wouldn't exactly call it re-recruiting the fan base. But both gestures come across as recognition that the Browns are lucky to have you, not the other way around. That's not exactly been the message of late. ... We don't know what happens from here, but that can only be a good thing. First impressions of Haslam make it seem even better" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/4). In Akron, Marla Ridenour wrote Haslam "oozed confidence, even though he repeatedly referred to the serious responsibility he is about to take on as Browns majority owner and in four years as sole owner." He "wants to be a man of the people." Haslam said of attending the practice, "It's important for me to be there, greet people, shake hands. I thought about the first exhibition game, why don't we just sit in the stands instead of sitting in the owners' box? See what the facility feels like sitting as a quote regular fan" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/4). In Cleveland, Terry Pluto wrote, "The new Browns owner easily won over the majority of the fan base with his enthusiasm, something that was always difficult for Randy Lerner to display in public" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/5). Pluto in an open letter to Haslam wrote he "hit all the major notes just right in your first press conference." Pluto: "Before anyone asked, you stressed that you bought the Browns to keep them in Cleveland and to win in Cleveland. The fans had to love how you kept calling the Steelers 'that other team' rather than saying the name" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/4).

HOLMGREN'S FUTURE: The PLAIN DEALER's Cabot reports Haslam is "open to keeping" Browns President Mike Holmgren "around for the 2012 season -- if Holmgren truly wants to stay." Haslam went to dinner with Holmgren Thursday night and "spent much of the day with him Friday." He declined to confirm whether former Eagles President Joe Banner "will join him here once the sale is approved." If Banner joins the team, Holmgren "most likely will be gone, and probably right away" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/4). In Canton, Steve Doerschuk noted Haslam "isn't saying anything" about the future of Holmgren, GM Tom Heckert or coach Pat Shurmur. Doerschuk wrote it would "seem to make sense to retain much of the current regime if it looks like there's a reasonable definition of progress taking place in 2012." Haslam said, "I think that's very fair" (Canton REPOSITORY, 8/5). ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Browns "will figure out a good and effective way for Mike Holmgren to walk out on his terms, because there has been some speculation around the league that Mike Holmgren would be walking away” ("NFL Live," ESPN, 8/3). ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley wrote under the header, "Advice To Haslam: Don't Clean House." Hensley: "Haslam needs to give the current regime a chance to prove itself." The talent level "has improved each year" under Holmgren, Heckert and Shurmer (ESPN.com, 8/3).

WELCOME TO THE FRATERNITY: In Cleveland, Tom Reed reported Haslam this week is going to Boston to meet with Patriots Owner Robert Kraft to "learn the business of the NFL." Kraft invited Haslam to visit, and Haslam said, "I'd be crazy not to. He said, 'I want you to come up here, and I'll show you everything.' I'd have to be the dumbest guy ever not to take him up on that. There are several other people who have reached out and want to do the same thing. I'm going to listen and learn, and I'm going to be taking a lot of notes" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/4). ESPN BOSTON's Mike Reiss noted the gesture "highlights one of the unique dynamics of NFL ownership -- owners are competitors but at the same time partners." Kraft is one of the most influential owners in the NFL, and he "knows it helps to have allies among the group" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 8/5).

LEGAL TEAM: AM LAW DAILY's Brian Baxter reported Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz Exec Committee co-Chair Edward Herlihy and corporate partner Lawrence Makow "are leading a team from the firm advising Lerner on the proposed sale of the Browns." Squire Sanders is also advising the team, and that firm has "long enjoyed a close relationship with the Lerner family." Squire Sanders partner Fred Nance "has been a longtime legal adviser to the Browns and was actively involved in the sale of the team to Haslam" (AMERICANLAWYER.com, 8/3).
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